Many years ago in the Anglican churches I attended, Lent always included an extra ‘giving’ opportunity. We used to receive Lenten coin folders, with space to put in a coin each day (I think it was a quarter [25c], which is hardly sacrificial these days!). At the end of Lent the coins were collected and donated to the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, or something similar.
In 2 Corinthians 8:9 Paul says, ‘For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich’.
‘Generous act’ in Greek is ‘charis’, which is often translated ‘grace’. Grace is unconditional, so Jesus’ generosity is unconditional. Jesus gave of himself freely, whether people were deserving of it or not. So if we imitate him, we also are called to be ‘grace-ful’ givers, with no strings attached.
Jesus’ generosity was also sacrificial – ‘though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor’. Our culture forms in us the expectation that our standard of living will increase. The gospel is meant to form in us the opposite expectation – that our generosity will have a negative effect on our lifestyle. As C.S. Lewis points out somewhere, there ought to be things we’d like to do that we can’t do because of our generosity to others.
And yet none of this is about mourning and misery, because (as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9:7 ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ – meaning, not that we shouldn’t give if we’re not cheerful about it, but that we should learn to take joy in generosity of every kind!
How about you? Are you taking on any extra giving for Lent? If so – don’t tell me about it (remember – ‘Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing’!!!).